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If you're planning a trip to Alberta, there are the classic must-sees: the scenic resort town of Banff, the turquoise waters of Lake Louise, Drumheller's badlands rich in dinosaur fossils, and the largest shopping mall in North America, West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton.

While locals may avoid these spots, particularly during high season, newcomers would be remiss to skip.

Alberta culture drums up images of elk crossing highways, plentiful cowboy boots, high-quality AAA-grade beef, and abundant oil fields, but Canada's second-most westerly province is greater than the sum of its stereotypes.

A 2019 report by BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research forecasts that the Canadian legal cannabis market will hit $5.2 billion in sales by 2024, and Alberta is expected to account for $2 billion, trailing behind Ontario, Canada's most-populous province.

Unexpectedly, Alberta is leading the charge for licensed cannabis retail outlets. While British Columbia garnered an international reputation for amazing bud and grassroots activism, its 32 retail outlets pale in comparison with Alberta's 116 shops.

Purchasing Cannabis in Alberta

Adult-use and medical cannabis are legal across Canada, as set out in the Cannabis Act which came into force Oct. 17, 2018. Regulations for medical cannabis have been in place since 2001.

Provincial governments are able to adapt parts of the regulations, such as setting the legal age to purchase with a mandatory minimum age of 18 and creating a retail model that can be government-run, privately run, or both.

In Alberta, the minimum age to purchase cannabis is 18, which mirrors its alcohol laws. Tourists and out-of-towners are also legally allowed to buy weed as long as they are of legal age. Keep in mind that while cannabis can be legally transported within Canada, it remains illegal to carry outside of the country's borders.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) regulates the province's distribution of cannabis, oversees private retail stores, and is the only legal online vendor at AlbertaCannabis.org.

To purchase online from the AGLC, you must have a physical address in Alberta. Medical consumers are able to order directly from a licensed producer regardless of their province, but adult-use cannabis cannot be sold across provincial borders.

Possessing Cannabis in Alberta

The legal possession limit for adult-use cannabis is 30 grams, or a little more than 1 ounce, of dried flower or non-dried equivalent in public. Alberta has not set limits on how much cannabis you can possess at home. Exceeding the possession limit, which are based on dried cannabis weights, can land you a fine or up to five years in jail.

Cannabis can be transported in a vehicle, but it cannot be accessible to the driver or passengers and must be in a sealed container.

Edibles and concentrates are currently unavailable on the legal market but are expected to hit store shelves by mid-December 2019.

Adults 18 and older are allowed to share cannabis with other adults, but can face a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail for giving or selling cannabis to minors.

Children younger than 18 who possess less than 5 grams of cannabis will not be charged criminally, but will have their weed taken away, their parents notified, and may face penalties similar to possessing alcohol and tobacco.

Moose and other wildlife are abundant in Alberta. Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

Consuming Cannabis in Alberta

Provinces and municipalities are able to set their own laws when it comes to cannabis consumption. Calgary, for example, bans all public consumption of cannabis, including vaping and edibles, with exceptions for medical consumers.

Violations can lead to a fine of up to $100.

For most of the province, consumption on private property and residences is permitted with the landowner's approval.

Rental properties are subject to the discretion of landlords, and many buildings are enforcing a no-smoking rule, similar to tobacco.

Some municipalities allow for public consumption wherever cigarettes and vaping are permitted.

Smoking or vaping cannabis is prohibited near hospitals, schools, zoos, sports fields, and other public gathering places.

Cannabis consumption is also prohibited in vehicles, except for vehicles that are being used for temporary residences, such as  a parked recreational vehicle (RV).

Consumption lounges have not been licensed in Alberta, although some festival promoters are pushing for designated smoking areas.

Growing Cannabis in Alberta

If you're looking to give your green thumb a try, you can purchase seeds from a licensed producer and grow up to four plants at home. This limit is per household, not per individual.

Alberta also has not set a limit on how much you can harvest from your four plants.

Check with your rental agreement or condo bylaws before giving your garden a grow. Landlords and stratas may prohibit homegrown cannabis.

Since sharing is caring, you are able to give a gift of cannabis to adults 18 or older. Selling or trading without a license remains illegal.


Featured Image: Lake Louise in Banff National Park is a natural wonder and a major tourist destination in Alberta. Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

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